Breaking News

When the past is present…

“…The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” James Baldwin

 

Alex La Guma: The Greatest Novelist Whose Name You’ve Never Heard Before

Thirty years after his death, the name of South Africa’s Alex La Guma as a novelist, an activist in the liberation struggle and a remarkable human being should be on all of our lips.

By , The Root

screen_shot_20151016_at_4.44.11_pm.png.CROP.rtstoryvar-large.44.11_pm

Editor’s note: The spelling of the ethnic term “Coloured,” used within the context of South African history and culture, reflects the writer’s preference.

October 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the death of one of the world’s great novelists, arguably the greatest Africa—let alone South Africa—has ever produced, a man who was not only a prodigiously talented writer but also a valiant hero of the anti-apartheid struggle.

Alex La Guma (1925-1985) is today, sadly, a forgotten colossus, but in the 1960s and ’70s, he was indubitably the black Dickens, with his fiction containing the sweep and moral power of his acclaimed Victorian predecessor. An astonishing creative artist as well as an ardent freedom fighter, he was the author of five masterful novels—A Walk in the Night (1962), And a Threefold Cord (1964), The Stone Country (1967), In the Fog of the Seasons’ End (1972) and Time of the Butcherbird (1979).

With his genius for creating vivid characters amid the brutality of apartheid, his compassion for the poor and the oppressed, his masterful storytelling technique and his unforgettably sensuous, beautifully ornate prose style, La Guma has seldom been bettered in any age or on any continent. Thirty years after his death, the name Alex La Guma as a novelist, an activist in the liberation struggle and a remarkable human being should be on all of our lips…

When his debut novella, A Walk in the Night, was published in 1962, a new star of black South African writing came into view with astonishing alacrity. A remarkably assured first work, written while he was under house arrest for anti-apartheid activism, it articulated many of the themes that would come to dominate La Guma’s writing: fierce opposition to apartheid, a lyrical celebration of the working-class Coloured community, a potent use of nature as a mirror for the psychology of his protagonists, and the use of literature as a tool for liberty, equality and human dignity, all distinctively couched in seductively ornate prose and heavily infused with a Dickensian realism.

Hewn from the miasma of poverty and oppression that was the enclave of District 6, A Walk in the Night unrepentantly celebrates the lives, hopes and fragile dreams of the down-and-outs, prostitutes and gangsters who inhabited this tawdry, bohemian slum. It is the story of Michael Adonis, a young Coloured man who, after being sacked from his factory job following a confrontation with his racist Afrikaner boss, embarks upon a nocturnal odyssey of crime and murder amid the neighborhood’s squalid, insalubrious tenement blocks. The horrors of racism, patricide and the pain of rootlessness all play their part in the novel’s terse, bleak greatness…

 

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

 

Obama Breaks Down ‘Black Lives Matter’ During Panel on Criminal-Justice Reform

While calling for strong, effective and fair law enforcement, the president spoke extensively on the intersection between race and the criminal-justice system.

By , The Root

To President Barack Obama, the Black Lives Matter creed-turned-movement makes sense. Speaking on a panel on criminal justice, the president attempted to explain the difference between and relevancy of the BLM mantra versus the counter chants of “All lives matter.”

“I think everybody understands all lives matter,” the president said. “I think the reason that the organizers used the phrase ‘Black lives matter’ was not because they said they were suggesting nobody else’s lives matter; rather, what they were suggesting was, there is a specific problem that is happening in the African-American community that’s not happening in other communities. And that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address…”

President Barack Obama speaking at an event about criminal-justice reform on the White House campus. (Photo credit: Brendan Smialowski)

President Barack Obama speaking at an event about criminal-justice reform on the White House campus. (Photo credit: Brendan Smialowski)

“One of the ways of avoiding the politics of this and losing the moment is everybody just stepping back for a second and understanding that the African-American community is not just making this up, and it’s not just something being politicized; it’s real and there’s a history behind it.  And we have to take it seriously,” he insisted.

Still, the president made sure to give a nod to the tough job police officers face and the difficult decisions they often have to make, saying that it was imperative not to “paint with a broad brush, [and to] understand that the overwhelming majority of law enforcement is doing the right thing and wants to do the right thing…”

During the panel, Obama acknowledged that the goals for criminal-justice reform in the United States would have to include fairness—regardless of race, wealth and other identities; proportionality of punishment to crime; and the recognition that incarceration is not the only solution to reducing crime and violence in communities.

“If [incarceration is] the only tool…then we’re missing opportunities for us to create safer communities through drug diversion and treatment, for example, or through more effective re-entry programs, or getting to high school kids or middle school or elementary school kids earlier so that they don’t get in trouble in the first place, and how are we resourcing that,” the president said…

“I think it’s smart for us to start the debate around nonviolent drug offenders. You are right that that’s not going to suddenly halve our incarceration rate, but … if we do that right, and we are reinvesting in treatment, and we are reinvesting resources in police departments having more guys and gals on the street who are engaging in community policing, and that’s improving community relations, then that becomes the foundation upon which the public has confidence in potentially taking a future step and looking at sentencing changes down the road,” he added.

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

 

ABHM Exhibit Featured in German High School Textbook

by Dr. Fran Kaplan, Coordinator, ABHM Virtual Museum

A sample Abi-Box for English language learners in German high schools.

A sample Abi-Box for English language learners in German high schools.

A school book publisher located in Hannover, Germany, will reprint ABHM exhibit The Education of Black Children in the Jim Crow South. It will appear in their new book for high school students learning English, called “Abi-Box Englisch Niedersachsen2017 II.”

The book, to be published in November 2015, will reach 4000 students 16-18 years old and their teachers. The purpose of the Abi-Box book is to prepare students to take exams to qualify for college admission.

ABHM and scholar-griot Dr. Russell Brooker, who curated the exhibit, were pleased to grant reprint permission to the book’s publisher, Brinkmann Meyhöfer GmbH & Co. KG. This is not the only time ABHM exhibits have been used to help European students study both the English language and American history. An English teacher in France has her students study and write about essays lynching, which they research at this virtual museum.

In fact, this online museum is visited every year by hundreds of thousands of people from over 200 countries around the globe. Many–but not all–are middle-, high school, and university students researching the history of the black experience in the United States. Even beyond our borders, there is clearly a great deal of interest in issues of race and racism and how it has played out in this country.

 

A Rare, Firsthand Account of an African Muslim Enslaved in Brazil

Captured and stolen from Benin, Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua eventually found freedom in the United States, but he always dreamed of his African home.

By Steven J. Niven, The Root

Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua, Utica, N.Y., 1850 TUBMANINSTITUTE.CA

Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua, Utica, N.Y., 1850
TUBMANINSTITUTE.CA

There are relatively few detailed, firsthand accounts of the 12 million Africans captured and forcibly transported to the Americas in the 400 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Of the 10 million survivors of that journey, only a very small number, like Olaudah Equiano and Venture Smith lived long enough—or had the time or opportunity—to write about their experiences. Others like Job Ben Solomon were the subjects of biographies during their lifetimes.

To date, though, we know of only one African who wrote an account of his capture and enslavementin Brazil, the destination for 40 percent of all slaves who made that perilous Atlantic crossing between 1519 and 1867, when the slave trade finally ended in fact as well as in law.

For that reason alone, Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua’s Biography and description of the notorious Middle Passage would be worth exploring. But Baquaqua’s 1854 narrative also reveals a remarkable journey that took him to Haiti, upstate New York, Canada and England. In these places he was legally free but not at peace, because he was not at home. According to the Irish abolitionist Samuel Moore, who assisted him in writing and publishing his work, Baquaqua talked “much of Africa” and prayed ardently that he would one day return.

Biography, written by Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua PUBLIC DOMAIN

Biography, written by Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua
PUBLIC DOMAIN

Home, according to Baquaqua’s Biography, was the city of Zoogoo, now known as Djougou, a large city in the interior of the present-day West African nation of Benin. The Bight of Benin was one of the major ports of slave departures, responsible for the transportation of over 2 million Africans to the Western Hemisphere—a quarter of them, like Baquaqua, after the official ending of the slave trade in 1807.

As his first name, “Mahommah,” indicates, he was born a Muslim. His father, a Nigerian-born merchant, was “not very dark complexioned,” according to his description, and was said to be of “Arabian” descent. His mother, “entirely black,” came from Katsina in northern Nigeria, which was on a major caravan trade route in West Africa. Exactly how or why she traversed the 700 miles from Katsina to Djougou, where her husband made his home, is a reminder that 19th-century Africa was a very mobile society, shaped not only by the slave trade but by internal changes as well…

 

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

 

Louisiana middle school principal, high school coach wear offensive Halloween costumes

By The Grio

A middle school principal and high school coach are in hot water over offensive Halloween costumes that they wore earlier this month.

Iota Middle School Principal Lee Ann Wall and her husband Jeptha Wall, a coach at Crowley High School, wore costumes called “People of Walmart.” Jeptha was dressed with a red bandana around his waist, a gun in his belt and money poking out of his pockets. Lee Ann had a basket full of baby dolls, black and white, with a sign that read, “You wait on pay day, I be waiting for da first of da month!”

KLFY received the photo from a viewer who called the image a “display of classism and racism.”

“Wow, okay. So what is she trying to depict? Somebody who’s on welfare? If that is what she was trying to depict that’s even worse.” Alan Honersucker told KLFY.

Nathan Kresge, of Itoa, said, “To make fun of people that just can’t afford a better way of life, to make fun of them? That’s just ridiculous!”

While others are claiming that the costumes were simply meant to be costumes, Ellan Baggett, the Executive Director of Operations with the Acadia Parish School Board, has said that the school board had taken appropriate actions, though she did not divulge specifics.

 

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

 

My Friend Married the Maintenance Man

Few of our friends were thrilled, but her announcement also represents a common occurrence when it comes to black women and dating.

By D.S. Coleman, The Root

 

istock_000074828661_medium.jpg.CROP.rtstory-large

I vividly remember the day my homegirl announced that she was marrying a maintenance worker.

We were all enjoying a nice dinner, and then it was as if a hush had fallen over the crowd. She has a master’s degree and had purchased a house, while he was not bringing the same to the table. So most of our friends were not exactly thrilled about their relationship.

Her announcement reminded me of that scene in Coming to America when Randy Watson, with his band Sexual Chocolate, finishes his performance and only three people clap. People were semihappy that she was finally jumping the broom, but deep down, many felt that he wasn’t good enough for her. They felt that she was settling and dating someone who was not on her level.

This represents an all-too-familiar occurrence when it comes to black women and dating. Black women have to deal with the potential of making more than a mate, having a higher degree of education and having greater social mobility than their life partner. This makes dating a complex world to navigate.

The Pew Research Center reports that there are only 51 employed, never-married young black men between the ages of 25 and 34 for every 100 black women in the same boat. What does this shortage of available bachelors mean when it comes to relationships? The Atlantic paints a dismal picture, pointing out that black women are less likely to marry overall. A recent Brookings Institution study goes on to say that among black women who do marry, the college-educated are less likely than other groups to marry a man with a similar level of education.

How much does this really matter? …

 

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

 

Malcom X Suggests Cure To Racism In Newly-Discovered Handwritten Letter

The letter is on sale for $1.25 million.

 

Yes, It Is Rocket Science, and African Americans Are Doing It

These 11 African Americans are leaders in their STEM fields, from video game technology to space exploration, setting an example for the kind of professional achievement that is possible.

By Nigel Roberts, The Root

 

Stem jobs1. African Americans are missing out on the tech boom. Job creation in science, technology, engineering and math—known as STEM—career fields is expected to significantly outpace (pdf) that of non-STEM jobs well into the future. But black students are earning just a handful of STEM-related degrees. The reasons they lag behind include a mix of “self-doubt, stereotypes, discouragement and economics.” With another school year under way, we need to emphasize math and science as an academic foundation to guarantee good jobs for these students. While some of the job titles may sound daunting, the faces behind those titles prove that our young people have plenty of role models.

Edward Tunstel

2. Edward Tunstel, Robotics Engineer

Have you heard the (joking) prediction that robots will be doing all our jobs some day? Well, Edward Tunstel may have something to do with that. Tunstel is a senior roboticist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. His expertise includes robot navigation and the use of behavior-based controllers to enable robots to react to their environment. He recently served on the NASA Mars Exploration Rovers project as a flight-systems engineer. Robotic engineering attracts innovative thinkers with backgrounds in mechanical, electrical and computer-software engineering.

 

 

Kamilah_Taylor

3. Kamilah Taylor, Software Developer

Software developers write, edit and test computer programs that have an impact on nearly every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Employment in this field is projected to grow 22 percent by 2022. Kamilah Taylor is a senior software engineer at LinkedIn who works on the flagship LinkedIn iOS mobile app. She’s helping to build the “next big thing” for the company…

 

 

 

 

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

 

Baltimore cop spits in handcuffed black man’s face, then charges him with assault

By The Grio

A Baltimore police officer has been suspended after video emerged showing him spitting in the face of a black man who he then charged with assault.

The officer, Sergeant Robert Mesner, was placed on leave by interim chief Kevin Davis. In the video, Mesner can be seen following 31-year-old Alfred Evan after Evan had been arguing with him when Mesner broke up a group who were just standing around and talking.

Mesner follows Evan and his friends as one of Evan’s friends complains that Mesner is trying to provoke them. At this point, Mesner grabs Evan and forces him to the ground before handcuffing him and then turning him over so that Mesner can spit in his face.

“You spit on him. He just spit on him!” a woman can be heard saying.

As Evan is taken into custody, an angry crowd forms, and another officer holds off the crowd with his Taser. While Evan is put in the car, a woman is heard shouting, “You won’t Freddie Gray that one!”

Evan was charged with second-degree assault of a law enforcement officer, second-degree assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. However, since reviewing the video, Chief Davis has suspended Mesner, saying, “The video appears to depict the police sergeant spitting on the arrestee. That is outrageously unacceptable, and it directly contradicts the necessary community relationships we are striving to rehabilitate. The police powers of Sgt. Robert Mesner are now suspended, and a criminal investigation is underway. Our entire community deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”

You can watch footage of the arrest below.

 

 

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

 

Detention of black teens by police outside D.C. bank sparks protests

By Peter Hermann and Victoria St. Martin, the Washington Post

Jason Goolsby stood outside a bank on Pennsylvania Avenue SE on Monday evening pondering whether to withdraw money from the ATM. The teen said a woman pushing a baby stroller approached, and he held the vestibule door open for her.goolsby

The 18-year-old, who was with two friends, lingered about 20 seconds outside the Citibank near Eastern Market on Capitol Hill before leaving. Moments later, Goolsby said, he saw D.C. police cars racing toward him. One, he said, nearly hit him. The college freshman said he ran.

Three blocks away near Barracks Row, officers caught him. One of his friends recorded the tail end of Goolsby’s forceful detention — two white police officers on top of the screaming black teenager, trying to force his hands to his back while saying, “Stop resisting.”…

Goolsby didn’t know that he and his friends had been suspected of casing the ATM for a possible robbery. A caller to 911 reported suspicious youths loitering at the bank’s entrance and according to a transcript of her call made available Wednesday, said, “we just left but we felt like if we had taken money out we might’ve gotten robbed.”…

Within hours, the video and the explanation for the stop were circulating widely on the Internet, prompting criticism of the police and the 911 caller. On Tuesday afternoon, activists from the Black Lives Matter movement blocked parts of Pennsylvania Avenue on Capitol Hill…to get “justice for Jason.”


In an interview Tuesday, Goolsby said he wasn’t aware people were protesting in his name. But he expressed anger toward police and the woman at the bank, saying that he and his friends were seen as a threat simply because they are black…

Goolsby’s friend, a high school senior, posted the video on Twitter not long after the incident, writing that they were “approached because a white couple felt uncomfortable around me and my friend in the bank, this is how the police responded . . .”

Goolsby grew up in the District and graduated last year from Richard Wright Public Charter School, near the Washington Navy Yard. He is a freshman studying music at the University of the District of Columbia…

One of Goolsby’s former high school teachers, Erika Totten, is a District activist and leader in the Black Lives Matter movement. She said: “If you’re black, you’re an automatic threat. That’s the reality of the world we live in, and it’s supported by the justice system.”

Totten added, “White fear of a black boy caused that.”

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.